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Editorial: Harsh conclusion to 'orange hair' joke at U.S. Merchant Marine Academy

Seven people have been appointed to an advisory

Seven people have been appointed to an advisory board that will be examining instruction and management at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point. (Feb. 22, 2012) Credit: Newsday/John Paraskevas

It's a relief to hear that Gregory Sullivan, the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy professor who made a dumb joke, will keep his job.

Darkening the classroom to show a documentary in the wake of the theater shootings in Aurora, Colo., Sullivan joked that if someone with orange hair turns up, students should run for the exits. Improbably, one of Sullivan's students lost his father in the Aurora massacre -- a fact the mortified professor plausibly insisted he didn't know. The midshipman's family later defended Sullivan, who apologized to all parties, but the professor's been suspended for 45 days without pay and will have to sit through five hours of sensitivity training. That seems pretty harsh. Putting your foot in your mouth and having your clumsiness ricochet around the world on the Internet was probably punishment enough.